So Jesus and his three disciples
come down from the mountain having just caught a glimpse of the true glory and
power of Jesus. The transfiguration was a key point in the life of Jesus and
the faith journey of his disciples. Heaven and earth embraced for but a moment.

But then it was time to come down from the
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And when they reach the bottom, what’s the first thing they
encounter? Chaos. Arguments. Demons. Confusion. Frustration. Hopelessness.
Faithlessness.
A desperate father had brought his demon-possessed son to be
released, but the disciples couldn’t do it. We know that they had previously
been able to cast out demons (6:13),
but something was different this time. They couldn’t do it.
Failure.
To make matters worse, the “teachers of the Law” had
come up from Jerusalem to keep tabs on Jesus and his motley crew.
Epic failure.
Jesus’ words of exasperation are well understood: O unbelieving
generation,
 how long shall I
stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.
This raises the question: Who is Jesus talking about? There’s
obviously a lack of faith somewhere, but who is the main culprit? Answer:
Everyone.
The disciples, the teachers of the Law, the father, the crowd –
they all lacked faith. This makes Jesus’ statement all the more
unsettling. Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do
believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
 
What’s the difference between the father’s disbelief and that of
the disciples? They both lacked faith. None of them were getting what they
wanted. But in the end, Jesus responded to the father.
The difference was humility. The disciples lacked faith in Jesus
and it led to an arrogant faith in themselves. They thought they should be able
to handle it on their own apart from him. They said the words, they did the
rituals, but nothing happened. And instead of humbly admitting their failure,
they began to argue and pick fights among themselves.
The father realized that only Jesus had the power to heal his son.
He also realized he was way out of line to question Jesus’ power. But instead
of throwing his hands up in defeat and dragging his son home, he humbly pleaded
for Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief.
Jesus drove out the demon, lifted the son back onto his feet, and
the father and son get back to life.
Meanwhile, the scene shifts. The disciples ask Jesus why they
failed. At least they were beginning to show a change in heart.
With all the talk about faith in this passage, we would expect
Jesus to answer that they just needed to have more faith. That would make
sense, especially considering the other times when he chastises their unbelief.
But this time he says, This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Prayer. That’s what they have been missing. It’s
not some type of magical incantation. There’s nothing “superstitious”
about prayer. But prayer and faith are necessarily bound to each other. We pray
through faith (James 1:6; 5:15). And prayer also strengthens our faith (Romans
8:26-27). Prayer is the means by which we build a relationship with our God and
Father. It’s a time to speak, but it’s also a time to listen. It’s a time to
voice our desires, but it’s also a time to be opened to the desires of God.
The disciples had lost that connection with God
from whom the power comes. Once they lost that connection they began to lose
faith, and that faithlessness led to arrogance and pride.
It’s very easy for us to fall into the same trap.
That’s why I’m so glad we have the father’s plea recorded for us. It is
altogether fitting to make his plea our own.